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BATAVIA, OHIO — As Cincinnati Milacron Inc. gave reporters a sneak preview of new machinery before NPE, the company's top executive predicted Milacron's Plastics Machinery Group could hit $1 billion in sales by 2000.

The plastics group reported 1996 sales of $662 million.

In Batavia, the company showed off new technology — including a two-platen injection press, a tie-barless press and a new generation of Elektra all-electric machine with digital components — at the media tour, held May 19-20.

Daniel Meyer, chairman and chief executive officer, made the prediction in a speech May 19 kicking off the event.

Milacron makes injection molding machines, extruders and blow molding equipment. Its Plastics Machinery Group in 1996 got a $150 million sales boost from buying D-M-E Co., which makes mold bases, hot-runner parts and other mold components.

But Meyer said the group can reach the $1 billion mark from internal growth, without making any significant acquisitions.

``We want Plastics Machinery to be a $1 billion business by the year 2000. This is from internal growth, and we might even get there sooner if we continue to pursue acquisitions,'' Meyer said in his speech. Acquisitions, he said, ``would be icing on the cake.''

Milacron's name has popped up recently in rumors that it wants to purchase a major machinery maker. Interviewed after his speech, Meyer made it clear there are no blockbuster deals in the works right now.

``We're always looking at strategic acquisitions,'' Meyer said. ``There's nothing imminent. There are discussions going on, but there's nothing of a D-M-E size, anyway.''

Meyer did say that Milacron could expand its global distribution network using the acquisition strategy. Most business growth will come through new product development and expanded distribution, Meyer said. ``We have to make sure we are the lowest-cost producer.''

Milacron is by far the largest U.S.-owned maker of plastics machinery. Raymond Ross, president and chief operating officer, said Milacron wants to be a major world player.

``What we're really trying to do is have an omnipresence in the world. By that, I mean we want to be in all markets. We want to be in all segments,'' he said.

Milacron also showed its new technology, including:

Its entry into injection molding presses that have two platens, instead of three. At NPE, the firm will show a two-platen Vista Maxima with 1,760 tons of clamping force. Initially, the machines also will be available in 1,500, 2,200 and 3,000 tons. The full line eventually will extend from 500-4,000 tons.

The Vista Prowler, which has two lower tie bars instead of the traditional four. It uses a HydraColumn design to counteract deflection that can happen when you eliminate tie bars. Small, twin hydraulic cylinders embedded in the lower part of the machine compensate for any deflection.

At NPE, the company is showing its first Elektra IID with a motor/drive package that has digital components. Digital components will replace analog control circuits on future Elektras, allowing Milacron to lower the cost and improve performance, said Barr Klaus, product and development manager.

The company's first parallel twin-screw extruder, the Atlas.